Negotiation Practices and Etiquette in Israel
The country of Israel is generally pretty relaxed over its rules or guidelines concerning etiquette. This is mainly because it is a very westernized country, however with its roots deeply connected through its religious beliefs there are a few customs that should be followed or visitors to Israel need to be aware of.
In many homes the meals are considered to be kosher and this means practices such as no meat and dairy to be consumed during the same meal, so if you have just eaten a meal containing chicken and you are offered coffee to complete the meal expect to have your coffee without milk as this would go against its being kosher.
Generally the country has no specific rules on its dress code, the only exception is when you visit any buildings of religious significance then you should ensure your arms and legs are covered by suitable clothing. Men should also cover their heads when in a synagogue.
The correct dress for business meetings or functions is a suit or jacket and tie, in the warmer summer months this can be replaced by a light suit or button up shirt and a tie is optional. Women should wear a dress or skirt of a reasonable length or alternatively they can wear smart slacks or trousers.
You should always assume your hosts are kosher unless you know otherwise. As well as no mixing of meat and dairy this always includes no eating of pork and shellfish products. Whether kosher or not meals are usually conducted with an informal manner. You should not feel impelled to eat everything on your plate, it is not considered impolite if you leave some food on your plate.
When eating in a restaurant you should check to see if a service charge has been added to your bill before you leave a tip, your bill will usually be written in both Hebrew and English. Many restaurant staff receive low wages and rely on tips from the good service they provide.
If you are invited to the home of a colleague you should arrive bearing a small gift for your host. You should not bring flowers as these are not traditionally given as gifts in this way.
You should never be disrespectful towards the religion of any Israelis or attempt to discuss any problems arising from the situation between Arabs and Israelis. This includes past problems faced by Israelis or those by the Jewish faith.
It is considered polite to revert to first names soon after meeting new people and is considered a sign of friendship. Shake hands when arriving and again when leaving. Do not however shake hands with a woman if you know she is religious. In Orthodox Judaism the men and women who are not married never touch each other, shaking hands is therefore considered taboo. Stand up when visitors enter a room, this is particularly done by men when a woman enters the room.
Although the official languages of Israel are both Arabic and Hebrew, you will still hear lots of English being spoken. It is taught in all schools within the country and all street signs are written in each of these languages.
The customary etiquette when invited to someone’s home is to take a bottle of kosher wine as a gift for your host. You should expect dinner to last the entire evening and you should not discuss business inside another persons private home. It is customary to phone your hosts after the event to thank them for their hospitality. This is the preferred method over writing a thank you note.
When you are out shopping you can attempt to negotiate your way to a better price, it is not usually practiced at the larger malls and department stores but expected in the bazaars.